The Sony Ericsson Vivaz is the HD-video-shooting successor to the firm's flagship Satio model released last year.
designed to thrill YouTube-rs with its easy video upload features as well as the bundled 8GB memory card for ample storage
With an 8.1MP camera that can also record 720p HD video, the Sony Ericsson Vivaz is designed to thrill YouTube-rs with its easy video upload features as well as the bundled 8GB memory card for ample storage. This touchscreen phone has been designed to fit the contours of the hand and with social networking and multi-media features galore, this should be a standout phone.
The Vivaz has been ergonomically designed and does feel really nice to hold. The curved back fits nicely into the palm and although it's a light handset, it doesn't feel insubstantial. It has an abundance of very smooth surfaces, and overall it’s comfortable to hold and talk on. Aside from the LCD display, the handset does feel a little plastic and this may not be some tastes.
While the touchscreen is resistive, it's probably one of the better ones. Don’t expect iPhone like sensitivity or control, but one you get the hang of it, the Vivaz’s touchscreen is somewhat sharper and more responsive to a fingertip than previous resistive efforts and swiping through menus doesn't require much pressure on the screen. Other than the screen, a trio of buttons are all that feature on the front of Vivaz. The call, end and menu buttons are towards the bottom of the front, with volume/zoom and two camera buttons on the right side panel, and power/lock on the top making up the rest of them. We're glad to see a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port, given Sony Ericsson's previous love for its own connectors instead of a standard sockets.
Featured on the Vivaz is the Symbian S60 operating system, traditionally associated with Nokia handsets and found on devices like the Nokia 5800, N97 and X6. That said, the look and feel of the Vivaz interface is still very 'Sony Ericsson.' The menus are well laid out and easy to navigate, but because the Vivaz is limited to just one menu screen, some sub-menus are packed with options. But you can avoid exploring the menus too often if you invest some time customising the homescreen.
The default set up offers a row of five widget tabs across the top of the screen. These can be assigned different functions depending on your preferences. For example, we had tabs housing our favourite contacts, social networking apps, menu shortcuts and a favourite image acting as wallpaper. Scrolling between the tabs is easy and satisfying, but is slightly less elegant than the traditional Android homescreen set up. There's a nice level of customisation on the Sony Ericsson Vivaz, but it's more constrained than some of its contemporaries, particularly the Android based ones, where a plethora of widgets are on offer.
Speed of use is an area where the Vivaz lets itself down. Aside from being slow to start up, the temperamental auto-rotate takes a second or two too long to kick in. But overall the Vivaz is faster than its successor, the Satio, which is built on the same OS. It’s clear Sony Ericsson tweaked a bit more to make smoother transitions and load times, but maybe not far enough. We also had issues with the handset's multi-tasking – although we definitely welcome it as a feature and had no problem switching between applications, it was sometimes a little tricky to close things down entirely. For example, the internet browser allow multiple windows to open an allows you quickly switch between them but in doing so, removes the exit button, so you have to trawl through the setting to find it.
Since the Vivaz uses the Symbian OS, do not think this is not an all-singing-all-dancing-app-running phone, it is still possible to download new apps for the home screen via the PlayNow app store. This provides music, game and wallpaper downloads as well as apps, but they're generally not cheap and there are very few free options, unlike the wildly successful Apple App Store and Android Market.
Typing isn't too hard a task, despite the resistive touchscreen which we struggled with on the Sony Ericsson Satio. The screen is quite slim, so it's far easier to opt for the landscape QWERTY layout - although the number pad layout coupled with predictive text does a passable job too. We found this to be the easiest way to write a text, but the auto-rotate does have to keep up. There is no autocorrect function, which is a real annoyance for minor mistakes. Of course, you can opt to use the supplied stylus... best not! But, if you MUST use the stylus, there is a mini-QWERTY option which squeezes the whole keyboard into the width of the vertical screen position – really too small to use unless you're blessed with 20:20 vision and magnifying glass.
The camera is where Sony Ericsson intends the Vivaz to shine, with this one you get 8.1-megapixels to play with on still shots and the ability to shoot 720p HD video. There are separate buttons to launch the video and still-shot camera functions, as well as the on-screen option to swap between the two. Despite the one-button process, the camera is a little slow to get up to speed, but once up, using the camera functions was a breeze, with on-screen icons showing the current setup at a glance and housing menus for swapping between different features. There is a whole range of shooting options available on the Vivaz, on a par with a number of mid-range compact digital cameras. Although there's no manual focus you can choose between full autofocus, or specialist options for specific types of shots; macro for close-ups, infinite mode for landscape shots and portrait mode. For fun, the camera also has built-in effects - solarise and sepia effects - although the latter is not as rusty as we'd like it to be. The 720p HD video is pretty good capturing at 24fps and look great on screen, however move it up to a PC monitor and it does start to look a bit speckled. Recording and uploading to youTube os a breeze with the built in app.
Sony Ericsson states that the Vivaz can deliver up to 5 hours 20 minutes of 3G talktime, 2hours 30 minutes video call time and up to 430 hours of standby life. We reckon that talktime estimation is probably a little optimistic but not way out. After an intensive day of use, including watching and filming HD videos, the Vivaz was about ready to give up the ghost. But we also managed to get a good two to three days of more casual everyday use out of it before it needed recharging.
Like the Sony Ericsson Satio, this phone puts all its eggs in the camera basket; but the Vivaz manages to keep its other functions up to scratch somewhat better than the Satio, thanks in part to a faster processor. It's a shame Sony Ericsson didn't opt for a capacitive screen, but it does keep the costs down. The design of the Vivaz does put it ahead of the Satio and it sits well in the family of Sony Ericsson's upcoming handsets. Given the Vivaz's superior camera, near-HD screen, sleek design, ergonomic build and user-friendly music player, it wipes the floor with the Nokia's X6, despite the X6's capacitive screen. HD video recording is the headline grabber, and the rest of the phone does well to impress, but falls short of the other smartphone. For a mid-to-high range feature phone, we were pleasantly surprised by how much we liked the Sony Ericsson Vivaz.